CHAMPCAR/CART: Mexico City: Race officials press conference, part II

An interview with Chris Pook, Chris Kneifel And John Lopes. Part 2 of 2. Chris Pook: I would like to comment on [CART Steward] Wally [Dallenbach] and the great job he's done with CART over the years. He was the first chief steward, one of...

An interview with Chris Pook, Chris Kneifel And John Lopes.

Part 2 of 2.

Chris Pook: I would like to comment on [CART Steward] Wally [Dallenbach] and the great job he's done with CART over the years. He was the first chief steward, one of the chief stewards, he's done an outstanding job over the years. I think we should recognize him for what he's done, the tremendous work he's done over the years. He was an outstanding official, continues to be an outstanding official. He's worked with Chris this year. We all owe him a great debt of thanks for the long hours and either he put in.

That having been said, like all things in life, things change, things go on. I just want you to know I have absolute confidence in Chris Kneifel as our chief steward. He's going to take our officiating to a new level. As you heard just a few minutes ago, he has totally embraced this concept.

If a guy has made a mistake, but he hasn't gained an advantage as a result of that mistake, why ruin his race for him just for the sake of hitting him? Don't do it. Let him race. He hasn't gained the advantage, let him get on with that. Chris embraced that. We want to enhance driver's careers, not get in the way of them.

Thanks Wally, welcome Chris Kneifel. Thank you for what you're doing for us, Chris.

Q: In the past week there's been some articles in newspapers that a possible night race will take place at Milwaukee next year. In the past you talked about maybe doing a night race at Cleveland. Can you comment on those two possibilities?

Chris Pook: The State Fair Board in Milwaukee did vote on approval for a night race, if we want to run one there. Obviously we're looking at it. I don't think we've made any bones about the fact that Cleveland, on the 4th of July weekend, we'd love to run a night race there. There's challenges to it. Chris Kneifel needs to look at both these racetracks, the lighting systems. We'll work with Musco Lighting, the number one event lighting company in the world. We'll work with them. Chris will take a look and have a discussion with them as to the standards of lighting. The television folks will look at it. We'll make a decision. Stay tuned. Thank you for the question.

Q:   You started by saying you were working on announcements for the 2003
season.  What are they?

John Lopes: In terms of announcements, we hope you will be pleased to start hearing things possibly as soon as today, that's Adam's department, in terms of teams, sponsors, drivers moving forward in the future. I imagine we'll have several announcements over the next couple of weeks.

Q: Some rumor or speculation that there might be room for an additional race in Mexico somewhere in the not too distant future. Cancun is a name I've heard.

Chris Pook: I haven't heard that rumor. Thanks for giving us a heads-up on it.

Let me just say to you that there is a fairly substantial demand for our racing, our type of racing, in various major cities in North America and in other parts of the world. We're looking at them on a case-by-case basis. We'll react accordingly.

As I've said many times before, as long as it fits within the marketing plans of the companies who are involved in our series, both in the forms of sponsors on the side of race cars and sponsors of the series itself, we will adjust accordingly.

Q: Do you think this is the best race of the year?

Chris Pook: First the all, the race is tomorrow, so it's hard to answer if it's the best race of the season when we haven't had it yet. I certainly compliment the design of the racetrack, everything they've done here. Has all the trappings, makings, to be an extremely good racetrack. I think qualifying so far has been exciting. It bodes well.

Motor racing is a business of absolute unknowns from moment to moment, as some of our veteran reporters will tell you. We try to have a surprise for them every inch of the way. I'm sure it will be an excellent race tomorrow, though. Certainly the organizers deserve to have an excellent race for the effort they've put into it.

Q: Are you worried about losing your fan base along with some of the drivers?

Chris Pook: Not at all. Just like other major league sports, drivers come and go, team comes and go. We're disappointed to lose the drivers, certainly the couple of drivers at the moment, certainly a couple of the teams. But if you look to our paddock this weekend, there's no shortage of teams, certainly no shortage of drivers.

I can just tell you if some of these drivers that are in the paddock this weekend come to the series next year, the standard of driving will be raised yet gain in this series. We've got some guys out there that don't take any prisoners, who are very hungry and very young.

A couple of them have just said, "Don't worry about my paycheck, just put me in the race car, I'll earn a paycheck. I'm capable, I'm good, I can win in this series. Just give me a chance, let me drive."

When you have those sort of level drivers coming around, you look at them, it won't take long for the audience and public to embrace them, particularly when they're youngsters.

You saw what Manning did, Darren Manning at Rockingham, people were saying, "Who is Darren Manning?" Europeans know very well who he is. Now the Americans know him. Here is this guy that had never driven on an oval before, came out, tough oval, finished ninth. If he hadn't had a problem in his last pit stop, he probably would have been fifth or sixth.

I don't know if you saw [Andre] Lotterer going this morning. Here is a 20-year-old, all he wants to do is take that car deep in the corner. If you watched him drive, he takes it in deep. There's a couple more hanging around that will give some of our veterans who are returning a real hard time next year.

Q: Chris, has anything been finalized on a European race? I heard Germany was back in the picture.

Chris Pook: You guys are remarkably productive with your news.

I have not finalized it yet.  I will be on a trip, along with a couple of
my guys, first week of December.  We'll then decide exactly what we're
going to do, where we're going to do it.  This is a decision we're taking
very seriously.  We'll take what is best for the company.  I don't know.

Adam Saal: Thank you very much. The announcement Chris is going to be making in the paddocks right now will be reiterated here at the conclusion of qualifying.

Q: The cornering speeds are so high, what are the driver's reactions going to the high downforce? They were the ones who were most critical. Now they're complaining they can't pass.

John Lopes: With reduced horsepower next year, the cars are going to be slightly slower. The ability to regulate boost, we can go to ovals that we haven't been able to go to before. We can actually regulate the cars on a case-by-case basis. The simulations that Lee Dykstra and his staff have been running show the cars at pace speeds in the turns. We also believe we're going to get them side-by-side.

Q: Traction control is going to be used also next year or it's gone?

Chris Pook: Traction control will be gone.

Q: It's going to be more of a drivers series now or not?

Chris Pook: I would think it would be much more in the drivers' hands, having the traction control gone, having the fuel mixture gone. These guys are going to have to go out there and race. I also really believe the quality of work that Lee has done in terms of the different wing packages have also given the guys the type of car that they can race. That's obviously what was shown at Fontana.

Q: In view of the horsepower next year, being able to race on tracks you haven't been able to race previously, is your suggestion you might be able to go back to Texas Motor Speedway? There are rumors you may not go back to Fontana.

John Lopes: I don't see that we would be going back to Texas Motor Speedway, not that we wouldn't talk to them, but we have had not discussions with them. We do plan on being back in Texas in the future, however.

The rumor on Fontana is purely speculation. I can tell you the event we had there two weeks ago was perhaps the finest event we've ever had at Fontana. I believe that there's a renewed spirit of cooperation and relationship with our two companies. It actually was a very good event for us, not just on the competition side, behind the scenes with the people who work with our staff at CART. It was quite a pleasant experience. We would like to stay there.

Q: Would you talk about how the cars are affected with the type of air we have.

Chris Pook: In terms of giving you straight-out numbers, I'd be making it up. It's obvious that it has a huge influence on a lot of things. Obviously, the cars are nowhere near as efficient as they might be under braking. That would be very noticeable to the drivers. Obviously, through the high-speed turns, they're not making the downforce the guys typically are used to. There's a slight adjustment there. But that's more seat of the pants.

I think where you might also see some of the thin air playing, something as fundamental as tire pressure, how the tire, as it heats up, how the pressure in the tire builds. That's also affected by altitude. I would think some of the teams that have figured out how the tires are reacting in terms of how they're setting the pressure, make very minute adjustments that can give you a substantial performance advantage, if you have it figured out versus someone that might not have it figured out.

The altitude definitely affects the cars on a number of fronts.

Adam Saal: Lee Dykstra is in charge of all things aerodynamics. The altitude has been tough on him. Again, Lee is out of the hospital, back resting at the hotel, well on the road to recovery.

Q: Chris, I notice the average speeds are relatively low because of what you were just talking about. With the race starting at 3:00 tomorrow, is there any concern about finishing the race before it gets dark? Two-hour window.

Chris Pook: I have watched the sun set every night and look at my watch. There's no question, when we saw the schedule, this time of year, there's no fluff in it, that's for sure. We have run the numbers. In a perfect world, if we run an all-green race, this race could be 1 hour, 45 minutes. That's probably a little optimistic. Barring any major drama, I don't think we're going to have any problem there with the light. I think sunset is 5:57 for Sunday. Obviously, visibility will be diminished prior to that. We'll keep our fingers crossed. Next year I'd like to see it start earlier.

Q: Being concerned about the possibility of darkness, do you have a contingency plan set where you can make a decision much more rapidly than you were able to do in Australia?

Chris Pook: Since then, at Fontana, we published a rule book clarification. We're always looking at Plan A, B, C, D. It's really Mother Nature. Let's see what the weather is like when we wake up tomorrow. The thing that could get us upside down - no pun intended - is a lot of rain.

Adam Saal:  You could worry yourself with "what ifs."  We feel we have
the right people on the job.  We're going to end this season on a high
note.  We will speak with you later today in three more press
conferences, and look forward to the race tomorrow.  We'll see you back
in Monterrey next year after our season opener in St.  Petersburg.

-cart-

Race officials press conference part I

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Chris Kneifel , Chris Pook